Tamara Thomsen is a marine archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society, member of the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame and prolific underwater photographer.
She has documented hundreds of dives in the Yahara lakes, and she is the co-author of “Our Four Lakes: Their Legends, Sites & Secrets.” She agreed to share some of her photographs with Wisconsin State Journal readers as part of a series:
The Yahara lakes | Giants among us.
The Habitat was a research vessel deployed by UW-Madison scientists from 1975 to 1986.
The Habitat, a research vessel formerly used by UW-Madison scientists, sits at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
The interior of the research vessel Habitat is shown at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
The structure of this ice shanty remains mostly intact at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
This sunken boat was found near James Madison Park in Lake Mendota.
Red paint is still visible on this boat sitting at the bottom of Lake Mendota near James Madison Park.
A diver inspects this old car in Lake Mendota near Picnic Point.
This overturned vehicle is one of two cars at the bottom of Lake Mendota off Picnic Point.
This is another view of the upside-down car off Picnic Point in Lake Mendota.
Another view of the overturned car off Picnic Point at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
A diver shines a light on a boat abandoned near Picnic Point in about 60 feet of water in Lake Mendota.
The remains of a generator sit at the bottom of Lake Mendota off Shorewood Hills.
Ice shanty debris
Sometimes people let ice shanties fall to the bottom of a lake or fail to remove them before the lake ice melts. Here you can see a generator, tire and other debris from inside a shanty abandoned on Lake Mendota near Shorewood Hills.
The bow of an old excursion boat, perhaps a century old, that provided tours sits on the bottom of Lake Mendota.
Diver explores wreck
A diver inspects a sunken excursion boat at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
Smilin' Bill wreck
The Smilin' Bill rests about 20 feet below the surface at the bottom of University Bay in Lake Mendota.
Silt and mud cover the Smilin' Bill at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
A wagon sits at the bottom of Lake Mendota. Divers haven't figured out the details about what happened to lead it to the bottom.
Monona Terrace supports
Posts help support the concrete poured for Monona Terrace.
Ice diving is popular among scuba enthusiasts in the Madison area. Here divers wait for their turn underwater during the winter. Typically divers wear dry suits or pour warm water down the front of their wet suits to be able to handle the chilly water temperatures.
Part of a dredge is left over in Lake Monona.
An old weed sprayer, with a paddlewheel, sits at the bottom of Lake Monona in about 35 feet of water.
A sunken boat lift was found at the bottom of Lake Waubesa. The lift was used to raise and lower boats into the lake.
An overturned boat with motor sunk into Lake Waubesa.
The overturned boat in Lake Waubesa.
Not many canoes sink to the bottom of a river or lake. This one did in Lake Waubesa.
A fish crib in Lake Waubesa helps shelter fish, allowing them to hide and grow to maturity. The cribs, often made by anglers, also make for excellent fishing habitats.
This is one of several cars at the bottom of Fox Bluff in Lake Mendota.
Sunken antique car
This car from the early 20th century could have entered Lake Mendota near Fox Bluff around 100 years ago.
The remains of a weed cutter sit at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
This is the rear of a car at the bottom of Lake Kegonsa.
A car sits at the bottom of Lake Kegonsa.
A boat, with its steering wheel still in place, sits in Lake Kegonsa.
A boat, with motor intact, was found at the bottom of Lake Kegonsa. It's unclear if the boat was abandoned or sank as the result of an accident.
The "Irish," a sailing scow, was found under about 45 feet of water in Lake Monona where it meets the Yahara River.
These vintage soda bottles are from Tamara Thomsen's collection, gathered from Madison's lakes.
Vintage bottle collection
Tamara Thomsen collected these vintage beer bottles during cleanup dives in Madison lakes.